Stuffed Peppers OR Punjene paprike

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I sorted out my image posting problems, thanks to the kind people who replied to my pleas! Once again, thanks, people! Here is a post, long overdue, that I prepared ages ago, but I’m posting it only now.

Stuffed vegetables are hugely popular in my part of the world: courgette, aubergine, sometimes tomatoes, but above all – peppers (punjene paprike in Croatian). Basically, uncooked peppers are stuffed with a mixture of beef (and sometimes pork) and uncooked rice. The peppers are then placed in a big pan, and covered with very smooth tomato sauce, to simmer until done. Every cook has his or her own variant of the recipe, adding a bit of this, and a bit of that, too add their own personal touch. This is how my mum makes stuffed peppers (punjene paprike).

Stuffed peppers were my favourite dish when I was growing up. I used to break the pepper in half, scoop out the meat, eat it, and leave the pepper ‘skin’ on my plate! Nowadays I know better, and eat the pepper, too! I love the combination of meat, pepper and tomato sauce. I love to dip bread in the sauce, or a piece of potato. This makes me smile already! Gosh, I had this this a few days ago, and I’m craving it already!

This is not a quick dish, but it is well worth the time. The peppers taste great the next day, too, so we often make a larger quantity. We did this this time, too, and had it the next day, too! Yum! Lucky me! We – I mean mainly mum! I was busy taking photos and making notes, during which mum was wonderfully patient! I thought she’d chase me out of the kitchen, me and my clicking, and moving the dishes around! - Thank you, mum! :)

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Stuffed Peppers / Punjene paprike

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SOURCE: mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 20 – 30 min

COOKING TIME: 2 – 2.5 h

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: 14*

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INGREDIENTS

14 large peppers*

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STUFFING

1 kg beef mince

0.5 kg pork mince

1 small bulb of garlic, finely chopped or crushed

2 eggs

1 mug of rice (uncooked)

a small bunch of fresh parsley

some bread crumbs

a little oil

salt, pepper,

vegeta (optional)

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TOMATO SAUCE**

Recipe HERE. Please note that you will need to double or even tripple the quantities for the sauce if you are making the recipe as above, i.e. not scaled down.

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METHOD:

I. Tomato sauce

  • Prepare the tomato sauce first, if you don’t have it already made. 

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II. Prepare the peppers

  • Now prepare the peppers. Wash them, and remove the core and the seeds. See photo below.

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III. Stuffing

  •  Mix the ingredients for the stuffing together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning.

Stuffing 

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IV. Stuff the peppers

  • Stuff the peppers with the mixture, but do not overfill.

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V. Assembling and cooking

  • Place the peppers in a pan, with the opening pointing upwards (see photo below).

  • Pour the tomato sauce over the peppers. Simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours. Add some flour mixed with water to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency.

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  • Serve with boiled potatoes, or mashed potato.

NOTES

* If you are using large peppers, allow one per person per serving. If you’re using small peppers, allow 2 per person per serving. We got 14 servings out of these peppers.

** We normally make it in advance.

Suggestions

You can use beef mince only. Mum sometimes adds cubes of pancetta to the sauce.

Why not use a mixture of your favourite spices to spice up the mince? I might do that myself, although there is nothing wrong with going simple, and enjoying the tastes of the meat, and the vegetables just the way they are!

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Verdict

As I said, this used to be one of my favourite dishes when I was growing up. I still like it a lot! What more can I say? :) Do try this recipe!

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68 thoughts on “Stuffed Peppers OR Punjene paprike

  1. a really nice step by step photo guide to a wonderful recipe.
    I’d follow everything but just omit he pork :)
    Thanks for visiting my blog.
    And i have no clue as what is the theme for the current DMBLGIT …. or who is hosting it .

  2. Thank you, Kate!
    You can omit the pork, no problem. You may want to use less lean beef mince though, to make it moister.

    DMBLGIT is a food photography blog event – Does My Blog Look Good in This. It has no theme, you can submit anything. I’m not sure who is hosting it this month. You can find that out at ‘Is My Blog Burning?’ or just google it. Actually, I’ll post this comment at your blog, too. :)

  3. I love this recipe. I tried making stuffed peppers before but my husband found it a bit dry. So this one’s definitely been bookmarked. Thanks to you and your mommy.

  4. MALLIKA, let me know what you think when you’ve made it! :)

    MARYANN, yeap. they’re haunting you all over the Blogosphere… hahahha [attempt at a scary laugh...]

  5. Hi Paul! Yes, what you’re saying sounds very similar to this. I am also trying to write down and try out a lot of my mom’s recipes now that I moved away from home. :)

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  7. If you’re reading this, PLEASE try this recipe with the authentic tomato sauce that goes with it. It was absolutely delicious and perfectly heartwarming for a wintry evening meal. A complete winner!!

  8. Najbolje su kad punjene s junetinama!

    I was briefly the executive chef in a restaurant on the Dalmatian coast this year. I will someday soon tell the story of preparing punjena paprika for Dalmatian kindergartners from the normativ (a very strict recipe for regulatory purposes) supplied by the Croatian government.

    Di si, Maninas? U Hrvatskoj?

  9. Mi inace stavimo i malo svinjetine sa junetinom, da bi paprike bile socnije.

    Ne znan da takve recepte normative! Bilo bi zanimljivo to vidit! Javi kad stavis taj recept.

    Iz Hrvatske sam, ali sad zivim u Velikoj Britaniji, ti?

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  11. I made these tonight and they were delicious! I love stuffed peppers but have only ever done them in a crock pot…so thanks for the alternate cooking idea!

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  13. Maninas, My mother in-law makes this and it is wonderful, but we can no-longer find the peppers here in Ohio, U.S. at the local markets.
    We called them Hungarian peppers or Hungarian Half Hot peppers. What kind of peppers do you use? We love this recipe but can’t locate any peppers to make it. Mark

  14. Just a small side note. It is not quite fair calling this recipe as Croatian in origin, because most of the Balkan countries have it the same way. One could easilly say they are Slovenian, or Serbian or Macedonian in origin (choose any ex-YU republic hehe), and I do not know for sure, but I think people in Romania have it as well (if I would dig it a bit more, I guess we’d find a lot more countries of the Balkans having it).

    On the other hand

    Punjene paprike RULE ! :)

  15. Hi Nenad, when I said the stuffed peppers are popular ‘in my part of the world’, I did mean the whole of the Balkan region. I will add that correction when I get back from my holiday.

    When do you start saying a recipe belongs a certain place, or how do you even determine where it originated from? And what point in time do you take as a point of reference? I think this is often difficult to establish. This recipe has entered Croatian cooking, and has become part of it. True, this is the case with other ex-Yugoslav countries, too, as it often happens with countries of shared history and geography. I think it reflects the Turkish influence in the region, but we probably couldn’t call this version Turkish (correct me if I’m wrong). I agree, we would find more countries than Balkan having similar dishes.

  16. Mmm, memories… We always used to have ours with pasta. I was never able to get the sauce right – namely the quantity needed to cover the peppers! Will have to try it again sometime although I’ll be using veggie mince as my poor Deda had to when my sister and I decided to go veggie – blasphemy! :)

    Thanks for posting this to Tastespotting!

  17. Hi!

    I would declare this dish is hungarian :-D My mom used to make it a lot, but i have just started to appreciate it lately. We usually put a lot of paprika in it, omit the parsley and use minced pork. The pork should not be fatty but the fat it contains prevent being dry.
    We also make stuffed cabbage like this which is also a nice dish.

  18. We do this in Romania as well, but mostly we use minced pork, and like Millie said, we also do stuffed cabbage – one of my favorite dishes :)

  19. This reminds me that I promised the family I’d make sarmas this winter. We haven’t had them in at least a decade. My great aunt used to make them for us, she died a few years ago and before that had gone a bit senile, so she wasn’t cooking for us. The “stuffing” she taught me to use when I was a child was very similar to your stuffing for the peppers, except it was beef only, but I think it would be nice to add some lamb too.

  20. tsk tsk they are also eaten here in Bosnia together with sarma :D (violet’s stuffed cabbage) :D..soo…its regional ;) ;)

    hvala sto me podsjeti da ih napravim :D :D odlicno izgledaju :D

  21. Recipe looks great. We usually put a fair amount paprika and sauteed chopped onion in the filling. For those that don’t eat pork, ground veal works the best. Beef is much to dry, and just doesn’t taste very “Balkan”. Work a little cold water into the filling with the veal.

    Also, when we make the sauce, we use tomato sauce but thicken it with some “zafrig” (brown roux -usually made with lard and flour and flavored with onion). But then again, we Žumberčani put zafrig in everything. Often we season the dish with dill.

    Mark in Ohio: As far as finding the yellow Hungarian peppers in Ohio, they are available. I just bought some at the WestSide Market in Cleveland, Ohio this afternoon. They are also available at many produce and farmer’s markets. However, they are only available when they are in season – July to October – so eat something else at other times. Sarma maybe?

  22. I was just about to call my mum (in Montenegro) for the recipe when I stumbled across this blog. I have to say the photos do make one’s mouth water. Very well presented.
    My mum would just close the peppers with round potato cuts (5mm thick) So if you don’t have a dish where the peppers will stand upright than you can put them sideways without stuffing coming out. Also you can add some potatoes in the sauce to cook with the peppers (saving time for cooking them separately). My mum would cook this in the oven rather than on the hob. I suppose there is no big difference except that oven dish can hold more peppers and potatoes. Yogurt would be a must with this dish, at least in our family.
    I also wanted to make the stuffed cabbage leafs (fermented cabbage) but can only find shredded sauerkraut here in UK :(

    • Dear Sonja, you can roll your sarma in a regular cabbage leaves, and in a pot, between layers of sarma put layers of sauerkraut , and cook it like that. It is not like sarma made from fermented cabbage, but it works. We live in Canada and it is hard to find glavice kiselog kupusa esp. during the summer. Try this. Don’t forget to boil the cabbage leaves before you roll them into sarma. Enjoy!

  23. I hate when a recipe has “put a handful of this, a cup of that , or to taste or a pinch, a bunch or this” I.m not that kind of cook, especially not doing the dish before. Can you be more specific with the ingredient measurements for us who are less experienced. FYI when my mom had stuffing that was left, she would make meat balls an d just drop them is the pan with the peppers. The kids always liked these. thanks, Jeannie

  24. This recipe made me think of my nana (now passed). I could never make food like she does but it’s nice to honour her memory and try. Thank you very much for this recipe. It’s very hard to find one involving the peppers being simmered. Most bake, which I find leaves things very dry.

  25. Actually, I found the images and the recipe a really good start point. I made my own version, which I have developed over the years. I lived for 16 years in Croatia and my kids were born there, so we eat a lot of Yugoslavian dishes. I also added FANT as I actually love the taste that I remember for so many years. Regarding Sarma, I have been using the jars of saukraut leaves. They work well and are easy. When I lived in London, I used to buy the whole fermented cabbage in the Polish shops.

  26. Hi Derek, and welcome!
    What’s your version? I’d be interested to know.
    You know I don’t recall the taste of Fant! I had it as a kid once or twice, but that’s all. I really can’t remember.
    I’ll check the local Polish shops for whole fermented cabbage – thanks for the tip!

  27. I have started a supper club and every month we cook a different cuisine. For April I am attempting Croatian food. We are supposed to do a starter a main course and a dessert and a traditional drink to go along with the food – either a different drink per course or one drink that suits the whole meal. I am attempting a trial run on your stuffed peppers. Is this considered a starter or a main course? Any other suggestions?

    Cheers!

    • Hi Amanda! I’m delighted to hear you’ve chosen Croatian food for your supper club! I’ve done those, too, recently (and wrote about our Persian feast on this blog.) And how did you choose Croatian cuisine, if I may ask?

      Stuffed peppers are a main course. Venison/other game stew is a good choice for a main, too. I serve it with homemade pasta and green salad, but shop-bought fresh tagliatele are also good. Incidentally, when I did the post on it, I served it with mashed potato. Another choice would be grilled fish, simply stuffed with some fresh parsley and garlic, finely chopped, and olive oil before cooking. The same garlic and herb mixture is sprinkled over the cooked fish before serving. Olive oil and lemon wedges are obligatory condiments on the table! The fish I would serve with chard with garlic and olive oil, and or green salad (with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil and red wine vinegar). Or even a green bean and egg salad.

      Black risotto is sometimes served as a starter. Otherwise, a common starter is some good parma-ham styled dried ham, with some nice hard cheese, sth parmesan like (we’d use Pag in Croatia, for example), and with some good bread and pickled veg on the side. Little gherkins are great, and so are pickled peppers (that’s pickled in white vinegar, with peppercorns). I can think about a few other options if you need me to.

      Now let me think about a dessert.

      Fritule are sweed pastries, like mini-doughnats. They really a dessert, but they’re great with coffee.

  28. Hey. I just made this and its amazing.
    I remember how my mom cooked this while I was back in Belgrade. Now I’m in South Beach Florida, U cant find cuisine like this here, and I must say it brings all the nice memories and flavors from when I was a kid.
    Thx for the recipe, thx for the flashbacks, it taste great, and smells like our old country.

  29. Wow. Your peppers look fantastic Maninas. I must say very, very different to the peppers I am used to. They are much saucier and look like they would go great with some crispy fresh bread.

    You are right. This is a slightly labour intensive dish but ooh the results are so worth it. It sounds like you too have a reminder of your childhood when you eat them. I just love that certain foods can do that. It is so comforting and safe some how. Well done. It looks sensational.

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  32. Thank you for posting this!!!

    I stayed with a friend in Dubrovnik in 1997 and his mother made stuffed peppers and tomatoes just like this. I have been craving them ever since and have never been able to find a recipe that seemed similar.

    I’m going to try to make this recipe tonight. The only trick is going to be finding the right kind of pepper here in Northern California.

  33. Great recepe. I cook peppers with minced veal a bit of onion (sometimes I put spring onion instead) also I add fresh parsley and salt, papper, rice just like your mum…the only variation is that I do veal instead of pork – for me using just veal is the best as they are moist and very tasty without it being fatty.

    I buy turkish peppers very similar to those that you use on Finchley Road (london) in fruit and veg shop they normally have them all your around. Also the same shop has kiseli kupus cjele glavice ….and many many other croatian, serbian, macedonian, turkish etc products. It also sells burek with cheese or meat – but sells out pretty quickly so you have to be there about 11am best time to get it when it is freshly delivered….

    My only problem is cooking the sauce for the peppers – it taks a lot of practice to make it look, taste good and to ge tthe right consistency…

    Thanks for the photos and the recepe…it is always nice to compare and improve upon what you already have…

    • Thanks for your comment. I’ll check out that shop when I’m in the area. My – fresh burek sounds like a dream! I’m at home in Croatia now, and we had one yesterday for dinner. Fresh, moist with crispy pastry. Eaten with yogurt, naturally. :D

      My mum makes tomato sauce in bulk, which makes the cooking time shorter when she makes the peppers. Her recipe for the sauce (link above) is great, give it a go if you want.

  34. WOW! I just made your sauce, as well as the stuffed peppers for my boyfriend, with mashed potatoes on the side. He is from Montenegro and I wanted to surprise him with something from his cuisine since I am Italian-american and mainly cook Italian food. He LOVED it, as did I! The sauce has soooo much flavor and the peppers were delicious! And yes, it is different from the various Italian tomato, marinara and filetto di pomodoro sauces that I am used to. I’m freezing the rest of the sauce for later use, perhaps the risotto you suggested. The only thing I varied from your recipe was using only beef (he doesn’t eat pork) and I added some onion and sweet paprika (spice) to the meat mixture. Other than that, I followed your recipes. It was pretty easy to follow, and the photos let me know that I was on the right track. Just wanted to say thank you very much for sharing such a wonderful recipe, I’m going to bookmark your blog for future recipes to try! Hvala! :)

  35. For those having difficulty finding the right kind of peppers, see if you can find Cubanelle peppers (also called banana peppers or Italian sweets). Whole Foods sells them if there is one in your neighborhood. They are much more flavorful than regular bell peppers and taste much better in this dish.

  36. I followed your Stuffed Peppers recipe above and achieved great success with Gourmet Girls dinner party! Thank you. I love your colourful pic and step by step instructions.

    It was alot of work chopping up but the delicious taste was worth it in the long run.

    cheers,
    Mischelle from Coogee, WA

  37. I am an Aussie married to a Dalmatian – this recipe looks just like my sister-in-law made when we were visiting in Trogir. Will try it tonight and let you know how it goes.

  38. Lovely! The ones our son-in-law’s mom makes don’t use egg, and no tomato sauce, they are on kupus/home made sauerkraut with smoked pork and double smoked bacon. I love them! What are the pale green narrow long peppers used to make this? We easily have the red bells, but the Croatian pale green ones I saw in the markets there are wonderful.

    Mary-Anne

  39. Hi! As a child I used to spend my summer holidays in Spilt, my mum’s best frien used to make these for us. It’s been 20 yrs since I was last there and it is something I have never forgotten so I was ecstatic to find your recipe.
    I made this tonight and they were delicious the only problem I had was that my sauce didn’t turn out, it was very thick and more like the consistency of a thick soup. I will definitely be making this again though and hopefully I will get the sauce right.Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  40. My Croatian boyfriend loves punjene paprika I treat him to this a few times and of course for Valentines, he loves it with mash potatoes, thank you…yum!

  41. Im making them now. I use Vegeta (spice) in the rice/mince, onions and garlic. I fry the onion first only. we call them capsicums here in australia. I used green and red ones. I also added a slice of potatoes to close them cos they used to always spill out.

  42. Thank you so much for posting this, I am planning on trying this recipe tomorrow. This was my favourite dish growing up… my best friend is Serbian and I remember coming home from school to this delicious meal.

    Anyway, I have one quick question. I am a bit of a novice cook and am worried about the seasoning. How much salt, pepper, vegeta should I put into this recipe? Thanks so much!

    • Thank you for using your free time to promote the Croatian Cuisine.

      I am looking forward to use your mom’s recipe for the Labor Day weekend.!!!

      Marina

  43. Peppers you used are very mild and great tasting. Not same as our green bell peppers. Someone mentioned not using pork! Yes you can use 80/20 beef, but it will be dryer inside. Keep in mind that rice when cooking inside will absorb lots of moisture. Instead of pork use ground veal. I am still looking to get some of these peppers locally or at least order some seeds for next yr. Cant find out peppers name?
    Thanks

    • Well, this summer I got my hands on these peppers localy. They are also great for canning. By the way they are called Romanian Peppers of sometimes Gypsy peppers. They start growing green then turning yellow if not picked they will turn orange.

  44. I cook these stuffed capsicums as per my dads recipe who came from the island of brac in Croatia. I wrote it down before he passed and cook it every winter for my family. Very similar recipe but the only difference I do is put the lids back on the capsicums. No spillage! My Aussie born sons make sure I cook Croatian food as it is much more tastier than Aussie cuisine.

    Denise
    Perth Western Australia

  45. you never mentioned what flour you use as we now know, there is quite a variety of flour around, apart from that this is the recipe for stuffed pepper’s i have been looking for, specifically with the sauce, and we call them capsicums, thank you.

  46. I think this would work in a moderate oven and in a covered dish, though we normally do it on top of a stove. Sarma is made with pickled cabbage leaves. The stuffing is similar, but the sauce is somewhat different, a lot thiner. I shall have to post the recipe for that, too.

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